Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Christmas Countdown Ideas

I adore counting down to Christmas! I love advent calendars and those cute little pocket things with little trinkets inside! I shop for trinkets all year around, especially when we travel. I love picking up items that are unique to the area.  For example, when we were in Cabo last, I picked up individually wrapped Mexican chocolates! I also found some delightful individually wrapped tea bags using Mexican vanilla and tea.  What trinkets are you finding out there?  This is a great time to get good deals on school supplies AND Christmas is a great time to receive new ones!  Here are some wonderful ways to count down to Christmas that you will want to make.

Christmas Tree Countdown by My Sister’s Suitcase
Christmas Countdown Garland by the Crafting Chicks
Christmas Book Countdown by Positively Splendid
Advent Countdown Calendar by Design Dazzle
DIY Advent Jar by Mess for Less
DIY Boxes Advent Calendar by Powerful Mothering
25 Days of Service by I Heart Naptime

So who started all this counting down to Christmas?  Back in the day, the celebrants of Christ's birthday used Advent to lead up to the event.  Each Sunday was a set of prayers and scriptures that were said and candles were lit.  Some attribute the countdown fad to German carpenters in the 19th century who made wooden calendars of tiny drawers in which a treat was held.  This led the way to the current explosion of ways to countdown to Christmas.  Whomever you give credit, it is a wonderful way to build the excitement for one of my favorite holidays.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

21 Things I Do Before December 1

Christmas lovers agree that planning carefully is what makes the season extra special.  Having certain things in place before the official Christmas season makes the season far less stressful.  Here are my 21 things to do before December 1.

  1. I pin every day.  I look for ideas on the things I am planning and I pin away!  Links to my Christmas boards are here
  2. I organize my Christmas stuff by sorting what stays and what is going. I take photos and start selling my stuff in November.
  3. I plan my Christmas card and photo.  We love to send photo cards!
  4. I work on my Christmas blog.  We use this instead of a newsletter.  Here is are our Christmas blogs from years past.
  5. I create a paper calendar for the month of December.  I write down all the dates of events that I hear about on Facebook, online, word of mouth, etc.  When we buy tickets, all that gets added to the paper calendar.
  6. Make a list of movies that I want to revisit and ones that are being released that I want to see.
  7. Create my Spotify list.  I add some songs and take off some that I didn't care for the last year.
  8. Buy a new Santa hat!  When the Christmas stuff starts to make its appearance, I want to buy something and this is something I know I will use!
  9. I order my husband a new set of Christmas socks.
  10. Through the fall I will make and taste several cookies and candies.  Since I am going low carb as much as possible, this is going to be a big event for me this year!
  11. Using the Starbucks app, I look for the season's holiday drinks, look at what I can do to reduce the sugar, and load my "created" recipe into the app for easy ordering!
  12. Send out Facebook invites to my family for our holiday gatherings. I know, they probably roll their eyes, but we almost always have every one there because they knew well in advance when our family gatherings were.
  13. Decide on the lighting plan for the exterior of the house.  This year, even though we are going to Cabo for Christmas, we plan to decorate the exterior even more than ever.  If the inside is going to be lightly decorated, then we are making up for it outside!
  14. Look for the perfect sugar free hot chocolate!  I'll be experimenting with my own recipes!
  15. Purchase my holiday wear.  I always look for a festive sweater, a festive long sleeved tee shirt, and freshen up my Christmas jewelry.
  16. Order my share of Christmas fiction. I love books that have the Christmas holiday as a background.
  17. My hairdresser thinks I am nuts, but I book my November and December cuts and color now. These are time consuming events, so I want to be sure I have them booked and planned into the calendar.
  18. I order our Christmas pjs as soon as I see them. I was able to get our tee shirts at the Christmas in July sale and now I am looking for leggings or pj bottoms.  
  19. Instead of air fresheners we diffuse essential oils, so I make sure I order my pine, cinnamon, sweet orange and peppermint!
  20. I get our gas fireplace serviced in October.  This year I might even switch up the logs!
  21. Last but not least by any means, I find out when The Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon is live on TV.  I know I can call it up anytime on Netflix, but I want the thrill of gathering around the TV and watching it as a family.  Call me old fashioned.
What are your MUST DOs before December first?  Share your secrets and help us all be better prepared for the best holiday ever!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Christmas Candies that You will Love!

Another treat I love to indulge in over the holidays is Christmas candy.  I love that I can give a little and that it will go a long way.  I am learning that a batch can be divided into four gifts, in a smaller tin and it is appreciate as much for its smallness as it is for its taste!

With the world watching its sugar intake, it is safe to say that I won't be making as much candy as usual, so I am considering doing a candy swap with my neighbors. Not as fancy as the cookie exchange, but the idea that I will make a pound of fudge and give her half, if she will give me half of her turtles.  It seems to be a fair exchange!  Plus, cuts down on the amount of work!  Take a look at these goodies and tell me, which two would you want to trade for?

15 Christmas Candy Recipes

Christmas Tree Chocolate Bark by Premeditated Leftovers
Candy Cane Fudge by the Jenny Evolution
Pistachio Cranberry Bark by Flour on My Face
Pumpkin Fudge by Nemcsok Farms
Crockpot Christmas Candy by Almost Super Mom
Cinnamon Whiskey Balls by Home Cooking Memories
English Toffee by the Idea Room
Peppermint Patties by the Gunny Sack
Cinnamon Candy by a Southern Fairytale
Muddy Buddies by Crazy Little Project
Microwave Caramels by Simple As That
Coconut Cream Truffles by Crazy for Crust
Christmas White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn by the Kitchen is My Playground
Chocolate Caramel Pecan Turtles by Lil’ Luna

If you already are a wizard at one of these delicious candies, please leave any tips you have for making them in the comments below.  Let's make our Christmas candy making experiences be good ones!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

DIY Christmas Tree Ornaments

One of the Christmas traditions in my house is to make ornaments for a group of women who have been my friends for nearly 20 years now.  We met when Gooseberry Patch had a online chat group and have been friends ever since.  We have hosted an ornament exchange for eight years and the sign up for the ninth one has begun!

All of these adorable ornaments would be worthy candidates for the exchange. I did choose one that I will show you later, but for now it is a secret!  Part of the fun is the surprise of opening the box and seeing what ornaments everyone made, so I won't be the one to ruin the fun!

Pom Poms and Pinecones Ornaments by One Little Project
Wooden Sled Ornament by Fireflies and Mudpies
Scrabble Tile Ornament by Crafts by Amanda
Faux Wood Burn Ornaments by Simple As That
Mini Wreath Ornaments by A Cultivated Nest
Bottle Cap Reindeer – by Country Chic Cottage
Button Ornaments – by Stephanie Lynn
Mini Button Tree – by Childhood 101
Bottle Brush Tree Ornaments by Cupcakes and Crinoline

Wooden Tree Succulent Ornaments by Craftaholics Anonymous

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Etsy Christmas Favorites that are Available Now!

I like to get a head start on my Christmas decor and shopping and so I headed to my favorite online store: Etsy!  Are you an Etsy fan, too?  I am all about artists and their handmade goodness, especially at Christmas.  Support homemade!!

Santa Sack

I am in love with Christmas plaid, so these really caught my eye.  The Santa Sack continues in our family, even though our kids are grown! Apply the CHRISTMASJULY discount code to receive 20% discount off $10 or more!  I love it when my favorite sellers come through for us!  

Stocking Name Tags

With our ever changing family, personalized stockings were hard to keep up with, so these adorable stocking name tags were a great solution!

Fresh Balsam Wreaths

Ok, so you can't order this now!  But add it to your list of things to do in November.  Just looking at this wreath gets me all thrilled for Christmas!

Lobster Tree Skirt

Maybe because I am going to spend Christmas in Cabo, but this lobster tree skirt caught my attention!  Isn't it adorable?

Advent Counting

Since you are planning early, you have plenty of time to fill these adorable little containers with cute gifts.  I love this idea!

Christmas Ornament Kit

Again, you are planning early, so creating these adorable little ornaments will be a breeze!  Perfect for packages, neighbors and of course, your own tree!

And here it is, the Christmas Planner that I just love!  Pages and pages (72 to be exact) of Christmas helpfulness!  And for Christmas Tree Lane readers, you can apply the discount code of 5MONTHSTOGO to get 15% off $10 or more purchase! Isn't that nice!!  Tell Joleen I sent you!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Christmas Cookies!

Who can resist a post called Christmas Cookies, I tell you!!

I host a Christmas Cookie Exchange every year the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  About this time each year, I start taste testing the cookies that I want to try.  There are some important considerations for the cookies that are MUSTS:

  • 1.  The cookie must withstand packing.  No crumbly mess for my cookies!
  • 2.  The cookie must be small enough to pack in my container (12).  That sounds like that might be on me, but no, some cookies are designed to be huge!
  • 3.  The cookie can be creative but not take too much time for each cookie. I could be making up to 240 of the same cookie!
  • 4.  The cookie ingredients must be easily found. If I make a major league boo boo, I will need to be   able to restock the ingredients without ordering.
  • 5.  It must taste OUTSTANDING!

These cookies are ones that I am eager to try!  Some look more time consuming than others.  Those might be more fun for my family.  These gracious bloggers all allowed me to share their cookies with you!

Candy Cane Meringue Cookies by Bless This Mess
Red Velvet Cookies by Pink When
Mint Chocolate Brussels Cookies by the Cookie Rookie
Easy Gingerbread Cookies by Snap Creativity
Candy Filled Present Cookies by Hungry Happenings
Christmas Cookies by Lil’ Luna
Candy Cane Cookies by Home Cooking Memories
Grinch Cookies by Mom Dot
Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies by This Silly Girl’s Kitchen
Christmas Chocolate Kiss Cookies by The Kitchen is My Playground
Melting Snowmen Cookies by Homemade Hooplah
Stained Glass Cookies by Simply Recipes
Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies by a Pumpkin and a Princess

Which cookies are standing out to you?  My first one to try has to be those Candy Cane Meringues.  I think they may be too delicate but between you and me, I just want to make them for myself. Oopsie!

What are your favorite cookie swap cookies?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Welcome to Christmas in July, 2017

Welcome back to Christmas Tree Lane for Christmas in July!  After being quiet for a few months following Christmas, it is time for us to start getting back on the Christmas trail.

I have a confession to make.

We aren't celebrating Christmas at home this year.

That's right. My family and I have decided to celebrate in Cabo San Lucas this year and that means a whole lot of different planning.  I will share a long the way.

Until then, though, I want to celebrate with you for Christmas in July!  Every Wednesday I will post some fun things to do and fun recipes to try to help you celebrate on July 25. I don't know a lot of people who celebrate this holiday, so I celebrate it on my own.  AND I have a wonderful time doing it.

First off, check out these movies this month from  I am giddy with excitement over all the choices!

Saturday, July 15th
9a/8c: A Rose for Christmas
11a/10c: On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
1/12c: A Christmas Detour
3/2c: Looks Like Christmas
5/4c: The Mistletoe Promise
7/6c: A December Bride
9/8c: The Christmas Cure - A World Premiere Original

Tuesday, July 18th
2/1c: Let It Snow
4/3c: 12 Gifts of Christmas
6/5c: A Heavenly Christmas
8/7c: Sleigh Bells Ring

Thursday, July 20th
2/1c: Christmas Land
4/3c: Christmas Cookies
6/5c: A Wish for Christmas
8/7c: Looks Like Christmas

Sunday, July 23rd
9a/8c: I'm Not Ready for Christmas
11a/10c: Sleigh Bells Ring
1/12c: Christmas Incorporated
3/2c: A Dream of Christmas
5/4c: A Heavenly Christmas
7/6c: Every Christmas Has a Story
9/8c: My Christmas Love

My favorite activity for Christmas in July is to make Christmas cookies (usually one I am considering for my Christmas Cookie Exchange) and hot chocolate and what one of these movies that I have recorded!

Do you have a favorite movie from this list?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Leon Day 2017

Happy Leon Day to all!

What does that mean?  To all die hard Christmas fans, this is the SIX MONTHS TO CHRISTMAS sign we celebrate in the summer, that, and Christmas in July, but that's another post!

To celebrate this year, I signed up for a Christmas subscription box called My Christmas Crate.  A subscription box is a box of goodies that comes on a regular basis centered around a theme.  This is a Christmas box, so all the items are Christmas related. I purchased the crate on my own, so I could see exactly what it looks like when it comes to a regular person in the mail.

When I got my first box, I was super excited.  The box is decorated with Christmas things on the outside, subtle, not too gaudy, and says Celebrating Christmas Year Round on the side.  I liked that! The box is sturdy and reusable and I am sure I will be using it for any swaps I participate in this year.

I liked that the box was taped once.  Not 40 thousand times but once with good quality tape.  Inside I was greeted with an adorable Christmas postcard that says Happy Leon Day!  What a fun way to experience this box!  The back of the card lists the items that the box contains and where the items come from.  In my box I received:

A beautiful boxed set of cards that are handcut.

A hand poured soy candle in the Christmas Cookie scent by Fireside Candles.

A holiday flip flop ornament by Cape Shore.

A kitchen towel by Design Imports.

And a cute candy cane pen from My Christmas Crate.

I was super pleased with my first box and I will sign up to receive others.  The box was about $37 including shipping.  I can't say it was a bargain but I can say I was very pleased with the contents. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves Christmas and wants to experience that feeling once a month throughout the year!!

Friday, December 30, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Swap

I want to share with you the gifts I received from the 12 Days of Christmas Swap that I participated in this year.  The swap was organized by Chaotic Goddess Swaps and I was assigned to be a partner with Lauren from Shooting Stars Mag blog.  Lauren was a delightful and fun swap partner!

Use this graphic to follow along with my fun gifts!

1.  The cutest penguin cocoa mug and hot chocolate mix.  Adorable.
2.  A pine tree scented yankee candle.
3.  This adorable potholder mitten had a chocolate chip cookie mix in it!
4.  That sweet photo is a tree ornament!
5.  Homemade gift tags, all gone.  Used them all!
6.  A funny can cozy!
7.  A book called The Christmas Clock.  I read it on vacation!
8.  Yummy oversized Hershey's kisses with nuts.
9.  A Miracle on 34th Street DVD.  Watched it the night before Christmas!
10. Glittery gold reindeer ornaments.  I used them as gift tags.  So pretty.
11.  Cupcake toppers.  So. stinking. cute.
12.  My personal favorite:  The Michael Mead Holiday magazine.  I love him!

In the center is a sweet note that Lauren included with her adorable package.  The gifts are important, but this adorable message and sweet words were the bow to this delightful package!

So as you can see, Lauren spoiled me.  I so enjoyed doing this swap with her.  You can see her post on my gifts here!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Books to Read

Each year I stuff myself with books to read that use Christmas as a setting.  I love this.  It is my favorite thing to do over the holidays.  Me, book, fireplace, cookies...

This year I had the opportunity to read several, starting in October.  Here are my choices for Favorite Christmas Reads:

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin

Piper Chesterfield has a job as being a mystery guest at luxury hotels.  She goes around the world writing up reviews for a magazine.  She decides to do one last review before going on a sabbatical for a few months.  Little does she know that this might be her last hotel to review, ever.  Did I leave you with a sense of doom?  I shouldn't, the book is a lovely Christmas romance set in a remote winter land.  Beautiful book.  Buyer beware, this book has some steamy scenes in it, unusual for a Christmas romance.

Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson

This story is full of fun characters, friends and belly jiggling humor.  It has some moments that only sisters understand, how impossible it is to love and hate in the same moment.  Laura and Becca are two sisters, opposite in personalities but united in that they are there for each other when needed. When Becca's husband unexpectedly passes away, Laura makes a complete change in her life to support her sister when she decides to move away.  Beautiful story of how one's life can take a turn for the better in a twist of fate.

The Christmas Bride by Christian Michael

This book is full of short stories about mail order brides.  The stories are one to three chapters long, each with its own version of how a man writes for a mail order bride, the woman comes alone "out west" or "down south" and marries a complete stranger the day she arrives.  Even with that being said, there was something nice about finishing an entire story before going to bed.

All I Want For Christmas by Jenny Hale

Leah has only one wish, to move into her late grandmother's mansion and open a bed and breakfast in order to create a better life for her and her daughter, Sadie.  The problem is, Grandmother left the property to TWO people, Leah and David Forester, the previous owner of Evergreen Hill.  It seems that Grandmother purchased the property from David's grandmother when she ran out of money and sold the place.  It had always been David's desire to buy the property back from Grandmother in the future.  Now Leah has to figure out how to manage a dual ownership and if that is the best thing for her daughter.  A nice story with a predictable ending, but a lovely path to the ending!

These are a just a few of the Christmas books I read this year, but ones that I enjoyed and that were relatively inexpensive.  If you like reading Christmas romance, these will certainly fit the bill.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cozy Christmas Home Tour 2016

Christmas home decor is such a personal and unique experience.  Because of this, I like to have a homes tour that gets everyone excited about their own home and the way YOU decorate for Christmas.  Yes, every year someone comes out with a darling "theme" that is the must way to decorate (little red truck with the Christmas tree in the back ring a bell?) but truly, at Christmas, it is all about what makes you and your family the happiest!

I have gotten together with other like minded bloggers to share our homes with you.  In each tour you will see at least three rooms.  When I was a young woman, my grandmother told me to put a bit of Christmas cheer in every room!  I have taken that advice to heart.

Come on in, and let's get started on our tour!

Here is our living room, with our tree lit up and the room darkened.  See the candles in the windows? I have to have candles.  I am so grateful for the dusk to dawn ones!  It is so beautiful to see them lit up at night!

The stockings are hung... with the cozy fireplace.  The bookshelves are filled with nutcrackers.  

Wilson loves sleeping by the fireplace!  You can see more nutcrackers by the side of the fireplace and an old Santa (58 years old, to be exact!)  He's been a part of my entire life!

Couldn't leave Truman out, he loves the Christmas tree.  Here's a better angle of the nutcracker collection,  plus Mr. and Mrs. Claus, made for me by a very dear friend!

Our kitchen and dining room are a favorite hang out of our guests.  It's where the food and drink is, but also the largest space on the main floor.  With a breakfast bar that seats four,  an island that seats two and a table that seats eight, it is where our parties flourish!

I love our new dining room chairs!  The tree in the center was hand-crafted by a neighbor (he does sell them in his shop!!) and the table is set for a Christmas lunch gathering!

This set of stairs heads up to the upper story which has an office, my daughter's guest room and a loft.

The last room I am sharing is my daughter's bedroom.  We call it the guest room, but she decorated it and helped us pick all the colors for the room when the house was being built.  So...

The candles in the windows are so beautiful in her room.  The tree has a beach feel to it with the starfish and silver ornaments.  

This Santa was hand painted by my mother-in-law.  It has special meaning to us as our daughter was an ice skater while growing up.

I hoped you enjoyed my "Cozy Christmas Home" and that you will take some time to go and visit all the other homes on the tour!  Leave a link to your home tour in the comments and we will come and visit!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas Trees on Parade!

Join me on a lovely parade of Christmas trees from Blogland!  You will see an amazing amount of beautiful trees, all from blogs that I love.  Each blog will offer tips for decorating a tree as well, featured in italics so it is easily found!

My decorating tip:  If at all possible, have your tree visible through a window.  It make the most charming background on the inside and the prettiest decoration from the outside!

In my home there are currently three full sized trees decorated for Christmas.  This is down from five last year and down from thirteen in years past.  My living room tree is now housing all our family ornaments, including those handmade, from vacations and collectibles.  It has over 300 ornaments on a skinny tree.  In my eyes it is simply beautiful.

The tree I am sharing with you, though, is my daughter's tree.  This is in our guest room, which our daughter claims as her own.  That's fine by me, I want her to visit as often as she can!!  This tree has a seaside theme to it.  There are two family collections of ornaments, one are sleigh bells given to my husband while he was a principal and the other a Hallmark collectible on the 12 Days of Christmas. The silver bells and clear acrylic make perfect accompaniments to the starfish, greens and silvers of the tree.

Hallmark special collection

Silver sleigh bells collection

A few special ornaments give a tree focus and beauty.  We love the soft green of the stocking and the adorable tag.

Check out the other beautiful trees from wonderful bloggers!